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PARIS and NICE     Christmas season 2013

Because I am free to do so, I planned a holiday to Paris and Nice during the holiday season, an economical, none-peak tourist time.
I had a lot of choice for a 'home' in Paris, and chose a little apartment in the centrally located Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood. (see TIPS below)

Since it was the holiday season, I was surrounded by festive decorations and music.
The local citizenry was on the move.
There were special holiday markets and the usual artists' markets.

The weather was cool, but not cool enough to keep anyone from strolling around the Palais du Luxembourg.

Before leaving, I had researched 'things to see' in Paris. Each day, after a leisurely breakfast at 'home', I took to the streets for my scavenger hunt of both the famous and the little-known.
I found this sculpture on a tomb in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, largest cemetery in Paris, and resting place for Jim Morrison of the Doors and Edith Piaf, the Little Sparrow of France.

A young medical student helped me find this Statue of Death at her school.

I took an organized tour to find the famous Man Who Could Walk through Walls in the artist neighbourhood of Montmartre.

And of course Rodin's famous sculpture of The Thinker at the Rodin Museum.
There are the famous sites:

the Eiffel Tower,

the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral,

the romantic "love locks" left on Paris' Pont des Arts bridge,

and the famous windmills of Montmartre
And luckily I found unexpected treasures:

A harpist playing on the steps of Basilica of the Sacré Cœur with the city in the background.

One of many romantic archways over the cobbled streets.

A striking photograph by a local artist in a small sidestreet gallery.

Paris is a city of treasures, no matter the season!
The second half of my holiday was spent in Nice.

A 75 minute flight on Easy Jet landed me in this lovely city on the Mediterranean.

It is the middle of winter but the beaches are crowded with walkers and loungers, but no swimmers.

Busy markets displayed colourful fruits and vegetables

Local shoppers bustle in and out of the many shops.

Ferris wheels are part of the festive season in this area.

Nice has majestic mansions,
the 'best Orthodox church outside of Russia',

and beautiful parks.

Although it was their coldest season, trees continue to bear fruit.

My delightful Christmas dinner of Cornish hen, sweet potato and fine wine came from the deli department of a local supermarket. We have nothing that compares.

I investigated and discovered that a local bus would take me to Monaco for just over $3 return. The 30 minute trip takes you through breathtaking scenery along the Mediterranean coast.

Monaco is very lush and home to many very wealthy people.

For the holiday season, the front gardens of The Casino de Monte-Carlo were decked out with fake snow to appear as a winter wonderland. That kind of winter weather is easy to take.

Near the Casino is the hairpin turn which many of us have seen during the Monaco Grand Prix race.

A nearby indoor mall wowed me with its chandeliers and its prices! Needless to say, I did no shopping there.

220 Euros, equivalent to about $350, for a pair of sneakers!

On my return to Nice the weather decided to do what weather does, and I was glad I was headed back to Paris and home.

TIPS for this type of trip:

1. VRBO is an organization of rental apartments all over the world. Use Google Maps to pinpoint the location so it is central to where you want to be (see "Tips" in my Sedona trip).

2. Consider visiting a place off-season. You can hit some inclement weather, but visiting a popular tourist spot in a non-peak tourist season guarantees you a less crowded visit with no lines, no reservations needed, and no inflated prices. Visit with family and friends during the peak time, and 'holiday' the rest. So take a jacket, and visit off-season.

3. European airlines have different luggage restrictions than we are used to. Always check them out before you travel so you don't get any bad surprises www.airline-baggage-fees.com For example, on Easy Jet, the carry-on size is 50X40X20cm (unlike Air Canada which is 55X40X23cm). Also, in Canada and the US, we are allowed one carry-on PLUS one personal item such as a purse or laptop computer. Not so on Easy Jet. You are allowed ONE carry-on. If that is your purse or camera, you will be checking your carry-on luggage for 45Euros.
I had to scramble and crush to put EVERYTHING into my carry-on bag to avoid the fee.